Conan the Barbarian 102 and 103, 1979 “The Men Who Drink Blood!”

The character Conan, created by Robert E. Howard, is one that some feel can be a little one note, but Howard and those that followed did a great job in changing the surroundings, supporting cast, and opponents for the Cimmerian brawler. Case in point, these two issues where Conan must fight a vampire and his clan of razor-toothed warriors!

At this point, Conan has lost his love, Bêlit (she died in issue #100), and he has taken up residence with the Bamula Tribe (and become their chieftain), who is at war with the Kungado Tribe. Conan and his mates are viciously attacked by another tribe, called the Drelliks. These men are, in appearance at least, vampires! It’s going to take every ounce of strength and cunning for Conan to defeat these monsters!

One of the best reasons you can find to read these stories is of course, the creative team. Roy Thomas (writer), was the man at Marvel responsible for them acquiring the rights to print these incredible stories. Marvel then made the great decision to have first Barry Windsor-Smith, then ‘Big’ John Buscema create the visuals for these incredible books. His command of anatomy, ability to convey feelings through body language, and settings. His skills as a penciller are right at the top of the all time greats. Inking this legendary man, is Ernie Chan, who was the perfect fit for Buscema’s pencils, and the work shows it. Add George Roussos on colors, and Joe Rosen on letters, and the perfect comic book series is complete! The covers are both penciled by John Buscema, with the first inked by Al Milgrom, and the second by Bob McLeod.

 

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Dracula Lives! 3, 1973 “Prince of Darkness, City of Light!

Is there a more iconic horror figure than Dracula? Probably not, and after acquiring another issue of this spooky mag, it’s time to dive into it! October is here, and the horror mags from the Bronze Age are a great way to celebrate the season. Vampires, witches, a gargoyle, and Solomon Kane! A great issue for sure that brings a solid spotlight on Dracula not only in the Marvel universe, but also in contemporary fiction and film.

The Dracula story is one that dives into the history of the character in reference to the actual continuity of the Marvel Universe (written by Marv Wolfman, and art by ‘Big’ John Buscema and Syd Shores). A battle with another vampire, Nimrod, to be specific, who was the previous lord of the undead. The second story is a reprint from the 1950s. It involves a vampire and a slasher, à la Jack the Ripper (art by Larry Woromay). This story is followed by a great puff piece about Bela Lugosi with some fantastic photos from his films (written by Doug Moench).

Next we have what is probably the best piece of the book. A story about a chance encounter between Dracula and the sword wielding Puritan, Solomon Kane (written by Roy Thomas, with art by Alan Weiss and the Crusty Bunkers)! Another reprint from the Atlas era follows with an interesting take on the Shakespeare story Macbeth (art by C. A. Winter).  Finally, we get a super story about Dracula in Paris, and this time he must do battle with a stone gargoyle (written by Gerry Conway, and art by Alfonso Font)! There is also a neat story by Chris Claremont that features some love for Hammer studios! All of this is kicked off by a wonderful painted cover by Neal Adams!

 

Marvel Treasury Edition 21, 1979 “Behold…Galactus!”

The Treasury Edition is one of the best inventions in comic books. I mean, what could be better, than an oversized comic book? The answer is nothing. When you buy these gigantic books and open them up you get blinded by their awesomeness! Although mostly reprints, the material chosen is top-notch for sure.

Of course, the Fantastic Four are most famous because of their days during the Jack Kirby/Stan Lee era, as it should be. But honestly, if you venture past that era, you’ll find that the Bronze Age is quite good. Under the guidance of some of that era’s best creators, the team had some run-ins with a myriad of bizarre villains, but also some familiar ones like the Mole Man, the Impossible Man, and most importantly, Galactus!

In this oversized tome, the team is beset by gun-toting maniacs, a strange being from the stars with god-like powers, and then the final threat is revealed, and the team stands in awe of Galactus, Devourer of Worlds! Special appearance by the Silver Surfer!

Let it not be said that any era of the FF is greater than the original creators run on the book, but honestly, too much love is given to the John Byrne era and not because it’s bad, but because it causes people to overlook this incredibly underrated work by Stan Lee (writer), ‘Big’ John Buscema (pencils), ‘Joltin’ Joe Sinnott (inks),  Carl Gafford (colors), and Artie Simek, John Costanza, and Sam Rosen (letters). The cover is by Bob Budiansky and Bob McLeod, and they did a great job showing just how imposing the big G is (front and back covers!).

***note- apologies for the quality of the images. I had to use what I could find online because my scanner isn’t big enough to accommodate a Treasury comic book.

 

 

 

Marvel Treasury Edition 2, 1974 “The Fabulous Fantastic Four”

In the comic book hall of fame, there are a lot of great stories. Single issues, trades, whatever the format, dozens come across one’s mind immediately. Star-spanning adventures, tales of morality, love, tragedy, etc., take your pick. The format is one of the most underappreciated of all time, no doubt. One of the best examples of the different story types is none other than Marvel’s first family, the Fantastic Four! The familial aspect, love, loss, tragedy, comedy, etc., you get it all with them, especially under the creative eyes of Jack “King” Kirby and Stan “The Man” Lee!

After recently purchasing Marvel Treasury Edition 2, I finally read the epic story The Galactus Trilogy! This first encounter for Earth with a literal and figurative giant of the cosmos is so incredible, you will feel as if you’ve been through a war after reading it! And, not only do you get that incredible story, but also Dr. Doom, the Submariner, and The Impossible Man! With the back issues being extremely pricey, this is a great way to get to read these legendary stories and not break the bank! Finally, apologies for the low quality of the images (my scanner isn’t big enough to accommodate Treasury sized books). Enjoy!

 

 

 

Monsters Unleashed 4, 1973

Slowly but surely I’m making the effort to collect all of Marvel’s magazines from the 1970s. They’re getting steep in price overall, but if you look closely, you can usually find them here or there in decent shape for a bargain. When I saw the chance to pick up this issue for a reasonable price, I grabbed it immediately. A cover with a werewolf, and advertising the Frankenstein Monster is awesome, and high on my buy list for sure.

In this awesome mag, you get a great little one page story inside the front cover by Tony “The Tiger” Isabella and Pablo Marcos! Next we switch gears and see the ongoing story (chapter two) of a tale involving the Frankenstein Monster, by “Groovy” Gary Friedrich and “Big” John Buscema! The story and artwork are absolutely incredible in that one! Next, the book provides a reprint of a story called “The Hands (Adventures into Terror 14, 1951).” The writer is unknown, but the artwork is by Gene “The Dean” Colan!  An interesting little 4 page story that has a twist ending. A prose story called “Our Martian Heritage” by Chris (Mr. X-Men) Claremont that has some photos accompanying it (most notably from Invasion of the Saucer Men- 1957). A new tale about Gullivar Jones Warrior of Mars (continuing from the pages of Creatures on the Loose), is nothing short of short of awesome. Brought to you by Tony Isabella and  “Dynamic” Dave Cockrum! A zombified story by Steve “Baby” Gerber and Pablo Marcos keeps the book rolling, and then we get another Atlas Age reprint (The Killers- Adventures into Weird Worlds 10, 1952), artist unknown and art by Bernie Krigstein! And finally, we see a gorgeous story by “Dapper” Don Perlin and Chris Claremont! A werewolf story that is one of the most (if not the most) beautifully penciled stories by Perlin I’ve ever seen! Cover by Albert Pujolar!

 

Giant Size Man-Thing 3 and 4, 1975

The character Man-Thing is not only one of the best from the Bronze Age, but also for all time in the horror genre. Yes, the Heap predates him (also  another character called “IT” from the pulp era in a sci-fi story by Theodore Sturgeon predates The Heap) but his staying power wasn’t so great for one reason or another. Manny has been around since the early 1970s, and still going to this day. A lot of horror characters (other than the public domain ones), fizzled out and all but disappeared after the  Bronze Age came to a close, but not Man-Thing. One of the reasons is because he had great creators behind him virtually all of the time.

You may ask yourself, what does a wizard, a viking, a barbarian, a high school full of kids, and a duck have in common? Nothing, and that’s the sheer brilliance of Steve Gerber (writer, both issues, the Man-Thing stories plus Howard the Duck). He can take these random things and deliver a great story using a swamp monster that can’t even speak. On the surface, most Man-Thing stories just appear as action/adventure stories, but there is usually an underlying message that is/was very relevant.

The artwork in these two books is nothing short of excellent. In issue three, you get Alfredo Alcala (pencils/inks), Petra Goldberg (colors), and Marcos Pelayo (letters) on the interiors. The cover is by Gil Kane (pencils) and Klaus Janson (inks, with alterations by John Romita). There are two back-ups that feature work by Paul Reinman, Don Heck, Dick Ayers, and Jack “King” Kirby!

The following issue contains more incredible work, starting with an amazing cover by Frank Brunner! Ed Hannigan, Ron Wilson, Frank Springer, Phil Rachelson, Tom Orzechowski, round out the creative team, and a back-up story by Gerber and Brunner to top it all off!

 

 

The Man-Thing! by Steve Gerber!

I know the Silver Age was the foundation for just about everything (except most notably Captain America, the Human Torch, and Namor) at Marvel, but the Bronze Age was the age that brought comics into the modern era, because it explored ideas that were previously ignored or even taboo. Drugs, violence, religion, you name it, this time in comics was exactly what the industry needed. One of the creators that helped lead the way with his unique style of storytelling was Steve Gerber. He was a shot in the arm no doubt as the pages were filled with social issues galore, and along with his idiosyncratic style, humor, and tons of off-the-wall stories readers were enthralled with these books!

 

Imagine if you will, trying to write stories in which the main character cannot speak. Taking over the character Man-Thing in only its third appearance, Gerber immediately turned the direction of the book/character from a straight up horror character, to one that is centric to stories with social issues, but you still get the horror angle as well (just not the main point of the story). The issues of (Adventures Into) Fear that featured Gerber’s work did lean slightly more towards more horror than anything, but once Manny transitioned to his own title, the restraints were completely off.

Let me be frank, Gerber could write any kind of story, not just one solely focused on social issues. He actually would write an issue or two with that as the main idea (Fear #12, 16), but then turn around and write a few issues in a row of just straight up horror (Fear #13-15). He wrote superhero stories (check out his trippy Daredevil run, Marvel Two-in-One, Omega the Unknown, and Guardians of the Galaxy!), and everything in between, but what most consider his crowning achievement is Howard the Duck. I’m partial to the Man-Thing  stories though, and if you read them, I guarantee you’ll become a fan!

Check out these images that really drive home how awesome the Gerber Man-Thing is! Enjoy!

 

 

 

Thor 198, 1972 “And Odin Dies!”

After the departure of Jack Kirby (in 1970), Marvel comics needed someone to step in and fill the gigantic shoes of that legend. Not that anyone can do what Kirby did exactly, but to keep the titles rolling on pace, and with solid work. The Fantastic Four and Thor were books that Kirby made into gold with his style and powerful pencils, not to mention his imagination. With the source material already in place, they turned to “Big” John Buscema to take over the artistic duties.

In this issue, we see the return of the mighty Mangog! One of the few beings that has actually rivaled Thor in power, and strength (and making bold statements!). Throw in the Warriors Three, the Grand Vizier, and just about every other inhabitant of noble Asgard, and you’ve got a story to remember! A slam-bang action issue that features all the characters you know and love from this corner of the Marvel Universe!

Written by Gerry Conway, pencils by “Big” John Buscema, inks by Vince Colletta, John Costanza on letters, and edited by Stan Lee!

 

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Fantastic Four Annual 11, 1976 “And Now, The Invaders!”

Returning to the corner of the Marvel Universe occupied by Marvel’s first family, I thought it would be appropriate to focus on an amazing annual from the Bronze Age. In FF 169, Luke Cage was under the sway of the Puppet Master, and attacked the Fantastic Four. While he was going crazy, he knocked some Vibranium into Reed’s time machine. It was transported back to WWII era, and into the hands of the Nazis. With this awesome weapon, it looked as if the Allies would be defeated, and the world would live in tyranny. The FF then uses the time machine to hurl themselves back in time to help the greatest team of WWII, The Invaders, stop the Nazis and Baron Zemo!

This era of Marvel will always be my favorite, as Jack Kirby (cover pencils, inks by Joe Sinnott) returned to do some great covers like this one. Not to be outdone, is Mr. editor/writer/everything man, Roy Thomas, as he adds his uncanny ability to write team books. And this one has two great teams in it! One of my all time favorite artists, is “Big” John Buscema (pencils). His pencils are always a treat to see, and the inks of Sam Grainger compliment him well. Colors by Phil Rachelson, and letters by Sam Rosen!

 

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Giant-Size Man-Thing 2, 1974 “Of Monsters and Men!”

How is it possible that a character that cannot speak be so appealing? Well, when you take an origin story that involves a mystical swamp (near the Nexus of All Realities), a scientist, and Hydra (a later retcon not explicitly told in the origin story), and you’ve got a great way to convince me. Taking the concept from King Kong (1933), men who seek to cage something unnatural, and put it on display, are just begging for trouble. The trope of trying to contain something that is virtually uncontrollable, is one that’s been used many times over, with a varying degree of success. This time is definitely on the positive side.

When he was still alive, the mind of Steve “Baby” Gerber (writer) might have been a scary place to dive into. Hi stories about the weird and supernatural are top-notch. Why he isn’t recognized more outside of the circle of hardcore fans is a mystery to me, especially considering the praise other creators from that era and beyond seem to have for him and his work. Of Out of all the people who’ve drawn Man-Thing, I think “Big” John Buscema (pencils on interiors, and cover art) is my favorite. He certainly understood how to draw everything  even though he’s gone on record stating he didn’t like to draw superheroes all that much, he always did an admirable job. He is still one of the giants of the industry. “Santa” Klaus Janson (inks) is an artist that I first saw on Daredevil, and always thought he brought an extra dimension to whatever he had his hands in. John Costanza (letters) and Linda Lessmann (colors), are two very capable contributors that never failed to get it done. Let us not forget “Rascally” Roy Thomas (editor), as his work not only as a writer, but editing also is something that puts him at the top of the food chain in comic book history! You also get three bonus stories with work by great creators like Dick Ayers, Don Heck, and Jack Kirby!

 

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